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Samsung announce Intel variant of the Galaxy Book S

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Ultraportable drops Qualcomm Arm chip in favor of an Intel i5

Back in August last year, Samsung unveiled the Samsung Galaxy Book S, a premium ultraportable laptop that would use a Snapdragon 8cx arm processor, and shipped with Windows 10 for Arm. And you know Samsung is serious when they put an S at the end of a product title. It was designed to offer great battery life in a small and well-designed body. Perhaps due to some of the shortcomings of Windows 10 on Arm, Samsung has now decided to release an updated Intel variant of this machine, which will instead feature the Intel i5-L16G7 chipset.

This is an interesting choice of processor, and perhaps it’s due to the thermal and physical design of the original Arm variant of the Galaxy Book S that this chip was chosen. It’s a five core processor manufactured on a 10nm process, that features one reasonably fast 3 GHz core, and four smaller support chips. Essentially one processor core from the “Core” line of processors, and four Intel Atom cores. This hybrid chip design is intended to improve power efficiency, and offer fast performance when needed.

Or as Samsung put it:

“With this processor, Galaxy Book S efficiently provides an exceptional laptop performance. The processor delivers full Windows 10 application compatibility and intelligently balances multiple high-performing processes during use while conserving battery when not in use, powering your creative, commerce, and business programs.”

It’s a completely fanless design, meaning that it runs extremely quiet. It’s likely not going to be a performance beast, with no active airflow and a CPU designed for low power usage, it’s clear that this machine is primarily designed to be thin and lightweight. Samsung say that this machine will offer up to 17 hours of video playback, which is very impressive for such a light machine.

This shift from Qualcomm to Intel addresses one of the main shortcomings of the original version of this laptop. The Snapdragon 8cx arm processor does not natively run traditional Windows software, with a compatibility layer being required to do so. The compatibility layer Microsoft has developed for Windows 10 on Arm is impressive, running any Windows software on a different processor architecture is a big achievement, but it’s not without its issues. There’s currently zero support for x64 software, only software built for the older 32-bit x86 architecture. There’s also a noticeable performance hit, where even software that the compatibility layer is able to run might have performance issues. Windows 10 on Arm is not ready for the mainstream, so this new Intel-based configuration for the Galaxy Book S sidesteps that issue entirely by using a low power Intel chip instead.

Beyond the CPU, this laptop features a nice 13.3 Inch 1080p touchscreen display, LTE connectivity, fast eUFS storage, a fingerprint scanner, and a full metal frame. All in a laptop that weighs just 950 and is just 11.8mm thick.

Microsoft may hope to get more people using Windows on a wider variety of types of processors, and the potential for Windows 10 on Arm to broaden the types of devices that people use Windows on going forward, it’s great that Samsung is going to let users decide for themselves whether they want to try shifting over to Arm or stick with the tried and true x64 architecture. As Arm seeks to beef up the power of their mobile CPUs to better handle demands of laptop and desktop-class chips, and Intel work to shrink the size and increase the power efficiency of their laptop chips, it’s going to be interesting to watch who will do the better job of adopting each other’s strengths going forward.

The Intel variant of the Galaxy Book S is available to preorder today, and is scheduled to ship on July 4th, at a launch price of $1,299.99.

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